Chapter 3: Choosing Day
“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” - Tony Robbins
Two years after Rea goes to the ward, Choosing Day rolls around. All the members of the ward were in a frenzy frantically preparing themselves for the most important decision of their lives. Choosing Day was when each member of the Ward had a chance to request a craft of their choice and be accepted or rejected by the baron's craftmasters. Rea slips quietly out of her room and heads down to the stables. “I just need some time to think,” she says to herself. Upon entering the roomy stable, she takes a deep breath of the warm air. She walks down the aisle and lets herself into the stall of one of her favorite horses. “Hey, there Peanut. Look what I brought you,” she says with a quiet laugh and hands the old horse an apple. “I’ll be leaving soon...today’s Choosing Day and I’ve got a big decision to make. I just hope I won’t chicken out when it’s my turn.” She leans against the side of the warm horse, smelling the sweet scent of the hay and rubbing his soft muzzle. “Oh, I’m just so scared. I’m scared of everything, Peanut. I’ll never amount to much,” she whispers, tears welling to her eyes. Peanut neighs quietly, as though reassuring her. Rea hugs him tightly. “I’m glad you’re here with me.”
At that moment, a loud voice shouts, “Rea! Get back here right now! It’s almost time!”
Rea sighs and kisses Peanut on his muzzle. “Goodbye boy. I won’t be seeing you again. I’ll miss you.” With that, she heads out of the stables and back to the Ward.
Quickly, she brushes out her hair and straightens out her clothes. Then, she heads to the baron’s office and lines up with the other fifteen year-olds who are also waiting. The secretary looks up. “One, two , three, four, five, and six. Good. You are all here. Let me inform the Baron.” He slips into the Baron's office then steps back out. “You may enter now.”
With Rea last in line, the teenagers step into the large, well-lit room. The craftmasters are already there and waiting. Rea realizes with a sigh that she is the shortest and smallest. Consequently, she is put in the back of the line. The Baron looks them over. “Well, today is your big day. Make your decisions carefully. You may begin.”
A tall, muscular youth steps forward and announced his name and his craft of choice. He was quickly approved by the craftmaster and the proceedings moves on. Rea hardly seems to notice as two, three, and four of the other wards announced their choices and are approved. As the fifth ward steps forward and announces his name, she gives a little start of surprise. She wipes her sweaty palms on her skirt and takes a deep breath. The fifth ward is approved and steps back into the line. With her heart pounding wildly, Rea steps forward.
“Rea-Le Hamlin, my lord. I request to be a….a….”
Some of the other ward members snigger, but Rea takes a deep breath.
“I request to be a Ranger, my lord.”
Silence. Utter silence fills the room, then the floodgates open. The other children burst into a babble of confused talk. The baron stares. “Are you sure about this...Rea?” Rea nods, but a little less confidently. “Alright, then. I’ll ask Alix. You all are dismissed.” They all leave the baron's office and he sits down to write a message to Alix.
About an hour later, a messenger knocks on Alix’s door. “How may I help you?” Alix asks, opening the door.
The messenger nods his head in greeting, “From the Baron.” he says, handing Alix the letter.
“Thank you. I shall take a look,” Alix quietly shuts the door, confused. It was unusual for the Baron to act this formal. Generally, he was straightforward with any issues the fief was having that Alix needed to lend a hand in. For him to send a letter… something unusual must have happened at the castle. Alix shrugs, deciding to read the contents before coming to any conclusions. Alix leans against the wall and begins to peruse the page. As she reads, the surprise on her face becomes more and more obvious. Reaching the end of the letter, she looks up, shocked.
“I don’t know what to make of this!” she exclaims, tossing the piece of parchment onto the table. Alix begins to pace across the room, like she so often does. “Me? Take on an apprentice? This is absurd! I certainly don’t have the experience, or patience, or competence! Although, from what I’ve seen, she does have the skills necessary… but that’s beside the point. Gil’s going to kill me for getting myself into this mess. I’ve only been graduated five years, far less than the usual for those to teach an apprentice!” Alix sighs, sitting down at the table and putting her face in her hands.
“So many reasons why I shouldn’t, but I still feel as though I should,” she mutters. Alix picks up the parchment and skims over it again. “I think it’s time to give the Baron a visit,” she says, standing up and grabbing her cloak and bow.
“So you received my letter?”
“I did. It came as quite a shock.”
“It came as a shock to all of us. Never in all my years…”
“Can I speak to her?” Alix asks suddenly.
The Baron looks up, “Now?”
“The sooner the better.”
“I can arrange that.” He says, sending a servant down to get Rea. As she waits for them to arrive, Alix paces in front of the baron’s desk.
Within a few minutes, the servant knocks and re-enters with Rea following him timidly. “Here she is, sir,” the servant announces, as if they couldn’t see that already.
The baron nods. “You may leave now, Kirk. Thank you.” Under his breath, he mutters something about “stupid servants.”
In the pause that follows, Rea speaks up. “You needed me, my lord?” Quickly, she looks around the room and her eyes fall on Alix. Immediately, her face pales. “It’s a ‘No.’, isn’t it?” she asks fearing the worst.
Alix holds her hands up, “I haven’t decided. I wanted to speak with you first.”
“What is it?”
“I want to know why. Why would you choose to be a Ranger?” Alix asks.
Rea gives her a wry grin. “Well, first, I can’t really be anything else. I can write but not good enough to be a scribe or courier. The cooks don’t like me...for certain reasons...they don’t like any of us kids. I’m too small to take care of horses and girls can’t join battleschool. It was either being a farmer or at least trying to join the Rangers. Plus, I owe you one for saving my life.”
Alix studies Rea quietly for a moment, “But you realize being a ranger is dangerous? Five years of rigorous training to join a group of mysterious people. Is this what you want?”
Rea nods. “It might even give a meaning, a purpose to my life,” she replies quietly.
Alix remains silent as she thinks everything over. Sighing, she nods, “Alright, You can be my apprentice.”
Rea beams at her. “Oh, thank you so much!”
“Don’t thank me yet, you’ve got five long years ahead of you.”
Gilan scowls, staring at the paperwork before him. Messages and letters from all fifty fiefs ready for him to read. “The one thing training never prepares you for,” he mutters, glancing through a few documents. He raises an eyebrow as he picks up the next one, seeing that it’s from his former apprentice. Curious, he begins to read. He chuckles as he finishes the letter, “So, she’s already gotten herself an apprentice has she? It’s just like her, to do something out of the ordinary.” Gilan sets the letter to the side, “She’ll be excellent as a mentor, if she remembers to have patience.”